NPO status for Thrift, Making and First Light

HemingwayDesign has a long and illustrious history. We are in our fifth decade now but the first Friday in November 2022 will go down as one of our proudest when three independent organisations which were set up when we were in the midst of urban regeneration projects and who we contributed to their inception and founding were granted National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status by Arts Council England.

In 2012 the owner of Cool Blue PR, Tanya Garland, who had led on the public relations element of a project that is a HemDes highlight, The Staiths Southbank in Gateshead, introduced us to John Orchard, a partner at Marchday PLC who was regenerating Lingfield Point in Darlington. This was the site of the magnificent Patons and Baldwins Knitting Factory. John was passionate about creating a business park and housing that responded to the historical context, as well as supporting independent businesses and feeling thoroughly forward thinking. 

We loved what we saw and couldn’t believe that the quality of the vision and what was being delivered was so under the radar. If it had been within the M25 it would have been feted. We suggested that Lingfield Point would make a brilliant festival site and that a regionally and nationally significant festival could be just the place marketing tool to put Lingfield Point on the map. John was up for it, so we set about doing what HemDes urban design and placemaking teams are pretty good at, taking the DNA of a place and creating something that makes sense and resonates. We had just worked with a brilliant Festival Director on the 2012 Preston Guild, Stella Hall and happily she also loved the idea of The Festival of Thrift. 

The festival has now been going 10 years, is nationally known as the UK’s de facto festival of sustainability and low impact living, moves around the Tees Valley and is enormous and enormously impactful and HemingwayDesign co-founders Gerardine Hemingway and Wayne Hemingway continue to support the festival as proud board members. On Nov 4th 2022 The Festival of Thrift CIC (Community Interest Company) was awarded NPO status by Arts Council England.

In June 2017, the first National Festival of Making took place. This grew out of a project that was initiated a few years earlier, Blackburn is Open. You can read the full story here. The Festival of Making is most certainly Britain’s national festival of making because Blackburn can empirically claim to be Britain’s making capital. The Festival of Making CIC has and continues to have an acknowledged enormously positive impact on the town’s placebrand and its community. It is the passionate and creative leadership of Lauren Zawadzki and Elena Jackson of Deco Publique that have been integral to the success along with a strong Board representative of Arts, Education, Industry and Design of which we are proud to be a part of. On Nov 4th The National Festival of Making CIC was awarded NPO status by Arts Council England.

In 2016 HemingwayDesign embarked on a project to produce a Vision for Lowestoft South Beach, with the aim to rejuvenate the seafront and help enliven the town’s leisure and tourist attractions.

With its extensive sandy beach, two levels of promenade, seafront parks and gardens, all flanked by handsome period buildings, it quickly became apparent that Lowestoft was not short of possibility. Everything clearly pointed to a coastal town that was ready to welcome a new generation of climate change aware and thrifty travellers looking closer to home for day trips and holidays.

Fast forward to 2017, following a year of in-depth consultation with local stakeholders, creatives, and community groups, and a thorough design period, the Vision for Lowestoft South Beach was published. Happily, several recommendations have since been, and are in the process of being realised. HemingwayDesign’s DNA is at the heart of two of these. The Vision included the idea of a festival to celebrate sunrise to sunset on the magnificent beach and promenade. This proposal really started to fly when we assembled a group of local creative minds in a seafront hotel and brainstormed the concept. Thankfully within this group was the wonderful Genevieve Christie of Flipside, who had been delivering cultural arts events locally for many years.

It was discussed that Lowestoft is home to Britain’s most easterly beach, leading us directly to the idea of First Light Festival – a free 24-hour multi arts festival, celebrating one cycle of midsummer sun setting and rising over the beach in Britain’s most easterly town. First Light has been “shining a first light” on Lowestoft’s emerging talent ever since  The full story can be read here. On Nov 4th First Light CIC was awarded NPO status by Arts Council England.

Gerardine and Wayne have supported these three festivals as board members, giving time for free as we believed that they could thrive. These are the things each Festival has in common and what we put it down to:

– Recognising the importance of place and bringing the values of place out in projects.

– Coming up with a genius idea, working with curators and producers in creating an event or festival that totally “belongs” to a place from day one, because the idea could only have come out of that place.

– Establishing locally embedded, totally brilliant leadership from the outset.

– Building a brilliant delivery team.

– Creating a brand with an evocative and ultimately meaningful name, set of values, visual identity and assets that resonates and is simply ace!

– Placing value on working with incredible creatives, designers, artists, production teams and more.

– Always considering and attempting to maximise the positive social impact, the place branding and place marketing, and the resulting positive economic impact of the CIC’s output.

– Constant measurement of economic and social impact.

– Creating positive and meaningful “noise” around the project from day one and keeping that noise going.

– Creating a structure that works. Thrift, Making and First Light are all Community Interest Companies (CIC’s).

– Building a close and fruitful relationship with the local and regional council. Blackburn with Darwen Council, East Suffolk Council and various Teesside councils have been and continue to be wonderfully supportive.

– Doing impactful and accessible stuff that all sectors of a community appreciate and doing this throughout the year in the build up to the annual festival.

– Constant building of relationships with possible partners.

– Being forensic and dedicated to the cause when it comes to writing bids. Totally understanding what funders such as the invaluable Arts Council are looking for. The Festival Directors and their teams at Thrift, Making and First Light have been brilliant at this. 

– Constant evolution, for festivals to be around as long as Thrift and Making have is rare. CHANGE IS GOOD.